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Zinc opens its groundbreaking new facility

  • Date: 10 January 2012
  • Artform: All
  • Area: South East
modern white building interior Zinc's new building, Photo: Daniel Jones

A state-of-the-art £6.2million facility that offers arts, training and housing for disabled and disadvantaged people has now opened in Ongar, Essex.

Home to Arts Council England regularly funded arts and education charity Zinc, it is the first fully accessible building of its kind in the UK. It will be dedicated to education, innovation and excellence in the arts for disabled people and socially excluded groups. Zinc has been helping people to build their skills and independence for 21 years and the new centre will enable them to continue this work in a tailored and comfortable environment.

The Zinc Arts Centre project had support from a £100,000 Lottery-funded Grants for the arts award from Arts Council England and more the half of the funding was raised independently. Zinc's principal funders include local authorities, the Skills Funding Agency, the European Social Fund and BBC Children in Need.

The centre now offers 25 fully accessible bedrooms, a community and performance hall, nine supported housing flats, exhibition facilities and teaching spaces available for hire for activity groups and businesses.

There are two types of accommodation in the new building: short term stay rooms and supported housing flats that are fully self contained. The supported housing scheme, called Tolpuddle House, was delivered by project partner and supported housing specialist East Thames. Residents of Tolpuddle House will also receive a tailored programme of support, education, training and employment at the neighbouring Zinc Arts Centre.

Jeff Banks, Chief Executive of Zinc, said: 'We believe that this centre is truly a national landmark for social arts organisations. It will allow us to increase our work in support of the most vulnerable and marginalised groups in society to engage in the arts and help them lead a rewarding and fulfilling cultural life.

'In difficult economic times it is even more important to invest in creating opportunities that will provide these groups with the chance to develop new skills and benefit from pathways to employment.'

HRH Earl of Wessex Prince Edward officially opened the centre and also present was the Chairman of Epping Forest District Council, Councillor Ken Angold-Stephens. He said: 'I was hugely impressed by the hard work, enthusiasm and dedication of so many people and organisations who worked together to bring Zinc Arts and Tolpuddle House to fruition. The result is a facility of which they can be very proud and the new young residents, who all have disabilities, are clearly very excited by this new opportunity that gives them the best possible chance in life for independent living.'

Mark Richards, Senior Manager for Corporate Planning at the Arts Council said: 'Zinc has been working tirelessly over the last 10 years to make their vision for a bespoke fully accessible arts centre of the highest quality into a reality, and Arts Council are happy to have played a part in this process.

'The opportunities offered by the new theatre studio, residential accommodation, exhibition and meeting spaces will ensure many more possibilities for the public to engage in high quality arts experiences both as participants and audiences. We hope that new creative partnerships also spring from the opportunity to work with Zinc and utilise their fantastic facilities.'